Late Tuesday night, the St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights will face off in the desert. The Blues (3-2-1) are still aiming for some consistency after having alternated wins and losses through six games, while the Golden Knights (5-1-0) are off to a very strong start but face their first real challenging opponent in the Blues.
As it stands right now, the Golden Knights are -162 favorites, while the underdog Blues are listed at +136.
Singin’ the Blues
The Blues are still very likely to make the playoffs in a lopsided West Division, but their inconsistency thus far is a little bit of a concern. St. Louis has followed up every win this season with a loss, two of which were by painful scores of 8-0 and 6-3. But they have also managed to score at least four goals in each of their three wins.
Because of their up-and-down start, the Blues sit 18th with 2.83 goals per game on roughly 28 shots. But they are struggling on the power play, where they scored their first and only power-play goal of the season last Saturday versus the Kings.
St. Louis has also uncharacteristically struggled on defense, where they are allowing 3.67 goals per game and have a penalty kill percentage of 66.7%, ranking 27th and 26th, respectively.
As for players to watch, Jordan Kyrou comes to mind. The 22-year old right-wing has found a home on the team’s second line, leading in the team with four assists and six points.
His linemate, center Brayden Schenn, has a team-high four goals to go along with his lone assist. St. Louis also has veterans like Ryan O’Reilly and Jaden Schwartz to provide some offense, each of them tallying a goal and three assists.
Along the blue-line, new addition Torey Krug netted the team’s lone power-play goal of the season, while Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko have managed to find additional offense.
Knights Shining Bright
The Golden Knights entered the season as one of the clear favorites to win the Cup, and through six games, they have looked the part. Vegas swept the Ducks to open the year and then won three out of four against the Coyotes while netting four or more goals three times total and only letting one game get to overtime. Their one loss, a 5-2 road game at Arizona, was one where they still won the shot and possession battle.
The Knights are scoring 3.17 goals per game, 11th in the NHL, on just under 30 shots. Like the Blues, they are also struggling on the power play, scoring on just 10% of their opportunities after six games. Vegas’ clear area of strength so far is on the other end, where defensively, they have been one of the best teams in hockey.
The Golden Knights are allowing just two goals on 23.5 shots per game, each of those ranked as the third-best mark in hockey. They’re also great on the penalty kill while averaging under seven minutes in the box a night.
The player to watch tonight will be defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. In his first season of a lucrative free-agent deal with the Golden Knights, the former Blues captain is a big reason why their defense has looked as good as it has. He also has three points and leads the team with over 25 minutes of ice time per game.
In the scoring department, captain Mark Stone is the team leader with six assists and eight total points. Linemate Max Pacioretty has three goals through the first few games, tying him for the team lead with d-man Shea Theodore. Others like Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch, who each have five points, have also had strong starts.
For St. Louis, expect them to start their stud goaltender Jordan Binnington. Binnington is a workhorse, going 3-1-1 this season with a 2.53 GAA and .913 save percentage.
He’ll face Robin Lehner. Lehner seems to be the slight favorite to start over Marc-Andre Fleury, as the veteran netminder is 2-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA and .899 save percentage.
This is a highly-anticipated game between two Cup contenders, thanks in large part to Pietrangelo facing his former team for the first time. But I think the Blues get the last laugh in this one.
St. Louis is a much tougher opponent than what Vegas has experienced so far, and they still have the better goaltender in Binnington. Give me the Blues in an upset.
Pick: Blues +136